Former Army Rangers Donald Lee, left, and Matthew Griffin launched Combat Flip Flops in 2011. (Screenshot courtesy of CNBC.)
Are you ready to start the business you've always wanted? Do you have a million dollar idea but are not sure what to do first, second and third? Are you excited to leave military service behind and earn a living through your own entrepreneurial drive?
Military service is a wonderful background for business ownership, however there is a difference between military service and startup business management. A key factor that affects startup viability is how fast entrepreneurs adapt to their new job description as a business owner.
Many entrepreneurs say they started their companies for the opportunity to pursue their heart's desire. New bakery owners like to bake. Fitness coaches like to train clients. Contractors like to build. But successful entrepreneurship is not defined just by how well you bake or coach, but how well you manage your overall business.
You can direct a brilliant film, but if you don't make money at it, you may not get a second chance to make another film. Besides your specific passion, other skills are required to succeed.
New business owners who assume that entrepreneurship is all about the freedom to do "whatever I want, whenever I want," are also at high risk of business failure. Being the boss of a prosperous business involves focus and careful decision-making. In contrast, too much managerial spontaneity and freewheeling fun cost more than a young company can typically handle.
Here are three strategies to help you make the mental shift to money-making self-employment with precision.
1. Pay attention to cash.
Businesses close when they run out of cash. It's that simple. As the boss of your startup enterprise your top priority is to make sure your company always has enough cash to operate. This means that you have to embrace numbers and money issues; take full ownership of financial projections and understand what kinds of business decisions can drain cash faster than others.
You don't need an MBA to manage cash well, just a desire to do it. Check out some accounting books or take an accounting class to boost your money management skills.
2. Plan to achieve
It's not enough to hope to succeed; you have to plan to succeed. Hoping for customers, won't get them to your website. Hoping to raise money from investors won't get you in front of top check writers. Hoping the check is really in the mail is not the best way to collect past due invoices. Successful startup entrepreneurs set specific goals and then lay out practical day-by-day strategies to secure their first paying customers and profits.
3. Get help
Just because you are the boss of your new enterprise doesn't mean you will always have all the right answers. You will across a lot of issues and decisions that you never encountered before in your military career. It's only natural that beginner's mistakes will be made, sometimes costly ones.
When you face business unexpected problems in product development, product packaging, sales, marketing, customer service, or finance, don't guess the answer. Find someone who has already "been there and done that" and ask for help. Remember, every mistake you make now comes out of your pocket.
Here's one last tip. It's not enough to just get by in business; your managerial objective is to get ahead in business by using your head. You have a background of excellence in your military career; now just apply it to your new business.
You can do it!
Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.